Time Out says
The latest from Wild director Jean-Marc Vallée stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a grieving widower who gives his life a total rethink, post-catastrophe.
Jake Gyllenhaal is doing the best acting of his career these days—and even if it follows a certain formula, we’re still glad he’s found it. On the outside, he’s a cipher (take his ferrety slimeball of a videographer from Nightcrawler). But the eyes dart; plans are afoot. Gyllenhaal turns internal scheming into art.
It makes perfect sense, then, that he excels in Demolition as Davis Mitchell, a glib investment banker who takes the tragedy of his wife’s auto-accident death and buries it in a deep, private place. His boss and father-in-law (the effortlessly pained Chris Cooper) flashes his grief with every sick scowl; as a study in the way hard men let loved ones go, the movie sits on a sturdy emotional foundation you wish it had been content to explore.
But as scripted by Bryan Sipe, Demolition buries its lead actor under a rubble of clichés. There’s Davis’s sad penning of complaint letters about a malfunctioning candy machine to the vending company and the single, cute, age-appropriate mom (Naomi Watts) who answers them. There’s her confused teenage son who desperately needs a daddy figure and someone to make mixtapes for. And worst of all, there’s a sleekly modern suburban home that requires destroying to reach catharsis.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) doesn’t seem to mind when his movies become sun-dappled insta-redemption stories so long as there’s a bravura central turn holding it all down. The film ends with Davis back on the carousel of life (a literal one with calliope music). It’s a shameless ending to a sentimental screenplay, but that’s where the good parts are, sometimes.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
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